When Alan Smith was a Leeds United player, he was asked if there was a club he would never play for. His response was: “yeh, Man United.”
Smith signed for United in the summer of 2004, after Leeds were relegated, and spent three seasons at the club. Looking back at the decision, he says he couldn’t turn down the chance of playing at Manchester United for Sir Alex Ferguson.
I did say that. I’ve also learned to never say never in football. When I said it I was young and naive and never thought that a) Man United would ever want me and b) Leeds would ever sell me. Look how silly I was. I would probably have never left if we hadn’t gone down but Leeds were trying to sell me to the highest bidder. It was a free for all and I didn’t like it. As for criticism, I would have been a fool if I thought that would never have happened,” Smith explains. “I’d been at the club when Eric left to go to Old Trafford. I was ball boy the day he came back and scored at the Kop and saw the feelings that day. I spoke to Sir Alex and he said: ‘I never thought you’d be brave enough to make that decision.’ But the Leeds I left wasn’t the Leeds I knew. There were people in charge of the club who I didn’t like. I went to meetings and saw some bizarre things, with me being touted about to the highest bidder. I had the chance to go from a team who’d been relegated to the champions of the country. Arguably the greatest club manager ever wanted me. How could I turn that down?